Football Saturdays bring to town rowdy tailgates, pregame parties and for many local restaurants, an extra day to cash in.
Though owners and employees of many eateries around town say Football Saturdays don’t make or break their business, they’re quick to point out that the crowds mean big tips and a volume of service unmatched by any other day of the year.
Ryan Halsey, a full time server at Conor O’Neill’s on Main Street, said he notices a change in both the restaurant’s atmosphere and sales on game days. People from visiting teams and Michigan fans gather at Conor O’Neill’s to hang out before, during and after the game. Halsey said he notices that on Football Saturdays, there’s a significant increase in the amount of tips he makes.
“That’s usually because we get slammed on football game days,” Halsey said. “Every table, every seat gets full. It’s a great atmosphere here in the pub for people to watch the game.”
Halsey added that the amount in tips he makes sometimes depends on which school the Michigan football team is playing. Certain visiting fans, he said, tend to tip local waiters less.
“If Ohio State comes in town or something, those fans are in Ann Arbor and they tend to try and stick it to us and will tip a little less,” Halsey said.
Though Conor O’Neill’s is usually packed on game days, Halsey said it’s a crowd of older people and Ann Arbor residents, while students tend to stick to the South State Street area.
One of the restaurants in that area that sees a lot of students on Football Saturdays is Quickie Burger Bar and Grill, which puts an additional burger stand outside on game days. Quickie Burger’s owner, Varujan Arman, said the cart provides an easy way for people to grab a bite on their way to Michigan Stadium.
“All it’s doing is creating a quicker service so you don’t have to wait,” Arman said.
Arman, a University alum, said the restaurant sees at least “a one-and-a-half times” increase in the amount of food it sells and profit it makes on game days. The big difference, he said, is that on game days, in addition to students, many more Ann Arbor residents and visitors come to eat at the establishment, which is located at the intersection of South State and Hill streets.
“It’s a completely different clientele,” Arman said.
Though Football Saturdays are some of his busiest days of the year, Arman said the restaurant would still do well regardless.
“The thing people don’t understand about Football Saturday is it’s not that big of a deal,” Arman said. “What it does is create a 53rd week of the year. If it didn’t exist, we would still be fine.”
Arman added that certain game days, like days with noon games, actually hurt his business the night before, since students tend to go to bed earlier and Quickie Burger stays open until 4 a.m. But he said the increase in sales the next day ends up balancing it out.
For Church Street restaurant Pizza House, however, sales increase the whole weekend of a home game, Pizza House owner Dennis Tice said.
“Football Saturdays are obviously great and it’s not just Saturday but Friday and Sunday too,” Tice said.
There’s definitely an increase in the amount of food the restaurant sells on game days, but, like Quickie Burger, Tice said the eatery is normally very busy so it doesn’t make that much of a difference. Tice added that where the restaurant sees a real difference in sales is in pizza deliveries on game days.
“We probably make about 20 percent more deliveries,” Tice said. “We will end up having 30 delivery guys out there as opposed to the usual 19 or 20.”